Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Italian detours

Well, finally, I'm out from under the yoke of Harry Potter. I've been trying to finish my chapter on Harry Potter impostors, look-alikes, and knockoffs for some time, and for some reason it just kept slipping away. It probably had something to do with the shear volume of Potter doubles out there, not to mention his rights holders' bizarre efforts to make them all disappear. Anyway, the chapter's wrapped up, which means all that's left of my book, Equipment for Living: Everyday Book Culture in the Late Age of Print, is the introduction and conclusion.

This post isn't about Harry Potter, however. It's about my recent trip to Italy. I spent two weeks there last May (part of the reason for the delay in tying up loose ends in the HP chapter) and got a crash course in Italian history, culture, and politics. I'll spare you the photos of me at the Coliseum, the Vatican, and all the other usual tourist hot-spots, though I have to confess to being rather impressed across the board. Overall, the trip was just fantastic.

I also went on something like a Marxist "detour" while I was there, too. The image at left is one I took in Rome; it's of a political poster for the Italian Communist Party. That in itself wasn't interesting to me. What was interesting, though, was what it seemed to be espousing--within the limits of my admittedly spotty Italian, free culture and broad intellectual property rights. Though I think the idea of free culture does have its problems (I'm particularly leery of its libertarian dimensions), it was so refreshing to see a political party campaigning, in part, on a policy of open access to ideas, words, and things.

This next image is a photo of me at the gravesite of Antonio Gramsci, the brilliant thinker and activist who contributed so much to cultural studies' (and other field's) understanding of hegemony. His ashes are interred at what's called the cemetery for non-Catholics. (Sometimes it's referred to as the Protestant cemetery, though there are Jews and members of various Eastern Orthodox faiths buried there, too.) It's a lovely place--for a cemetery--and it also plays "home" to poets Keats and Shelley. What was intriguing about the cemetery, beyond the "celebrities" buried there, was the fact that Gramsci, apparently, was one of its main attractions.

Next time I'm in Italy, I suppose I'll have to track down Toni Negri or something....

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